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Margaret Davidson announces decision to step down after seven years as Highland Council leader

Council leader Margaret Davidson.
Council leader Margaret Davidson.

Highland Council will soon have a new leader after Margaret Davidson announced she is quitting the role in May.

Mrs Davidson has led the council since 2015 and has served as a councillor since 1995.

She told the Press and Journal: “27 years seems to be enough. It’s time for the next generation.

“The last two years have been truly odd. The world is changing and the council is changing.

“It’s not something I decided a long time ago, I came to it gradually over the last few months.”

Voters will go to the polls on May 5 to determine Scotland’s new councillors.

There are significant changes expected in the Highlands with around a quarter of the current intake likely to step down.

A challenging era for Highland Council

Mrs Davidson first took the reins in June 2015 after a coalition agreement between the SNP, the Lib Dems and Labour collapsed.

Those three years between 2012 and 2015 had been the first time the independent group did not have any control of Highland Council.

A new agreement between the independents and the Lib Dems saw the group led by Mrs Davidson regain control.

Against a backdrop of continuous budget pressures, it has been a turbulent journey since then.

Margaret Davidson with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the Port of Nigg in December 2021. Picture by Jason Hedges

Ominous talk about enormous “financial black holes” became nearly an annual event.

But the Aird and Loch councillor believes there are reasons to be optimistic about the future.

Mrs Davidson said: “We are in a better place now than we were, we absolutely are.

“The council is hugely better at handling our money. We have money there to invest in our roads and it’s the first time we’ve been in a position like since 2008 when the banks went bust.

“It’s been austerity, austerity, austerity but now we have a competent team who are much better at balancing the budget.”

Budget proposals were recently agreed for Highland Council – with a 3% council tax hike at the centre of the plans.

There are significant pressures but an increased investment in roads has been agreed.

That move has been largely welcomed, as a recent study revealed that 39% of Highland roads are in desperate need of repair.

What’s next for Margaret Davidson?

After nearly three decades with the council, Mrs Davidson said it would be a wrench to leave.

Retiring isn’t a word she feels comfortable with, however.

She intends to devote more time to her family business at the Abriachan Garden Nursery.

Margaret Davidson pictured at the then-new Drumnadrochit fire station in 2002. Picture by Sandy McCook

That will be music to the ears of her husband Donald, who she recently celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary with.

Mrs Davidson said: “It’s time for my family and our business to come first. I have other irons in the fire and I certainly won’t be bored.

“But I will really miss it, how could I not after that many years?”

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